Good news for race equality as Irish universities and colleges sign up to Anti-Racism Principles

The Higher Education Authority Anti-Racism Principles have been signed over the last few months by many Universities and HE Colleges across Ireland after approval by their Governing Bodies, including University College Cork , University of Galway, University College Dublin, University of Limerick, Technological University Dublin Technological University of the Shannon, Atlantic Technological University , South East Technological University, Dundalk Institute of Technology , Carlow College, St Patrick’s, National College of Ireland , and MIC.

These commit each University or College to acknowledge inequalities and racial discrimination in higher education, and to embed a culture of race equality across their institution.

These principles were developed by the HEA with higher education stakeholders following the 2020 report which highlighted racial abuse, discrimination and salary gaps affecting minority ethnic staff in higher education.

Recommendations in the report by Marta Kempny and Lucy Michael were across eight areas – supporting diversity in staff, supporting diversity in student recruitment, making race/equality policies transparent, reporting mechanisms, awareness and training, fostering diversity in HEIs, leadership and data collection

Senior leadership in HEIs were most commonly identified as the group most critical to the process of improving race equality in higher education and there is an opportunity for real evidence-informed leadership in this area by HEIs. High level commitment is crucial.

Huge thanks to all in the HEA staff and voluntary working groups who injected so much energy into this. We have been privileged to play a supporting role in the research. All credit now goes to the teams across each University that are implementing the HEA Race Equality Plan.

Pictured: screenshots from announcement of signing at ATU, SETU, NCI, ATU, UCD, UCC, TU Dublin, and TUS.

Tu Dublin
Carlow college
University of Galway

From the archives: Race Equality Works for Northern Ireland

In December 2015, Business in the Community in the UK published a major report on racial equality in UK workplaces. While this was an important piece of research, there were some obvious gaps in the Northern Ireland data.

Business in the Community Northern Ireland in partnership with Dr Lucy Michael and Maciek Bator of Craic NI undertook new research to explore the steps Northern Ireland’s employers are taking and the challenges they are facing in identifying and addressing racial inequality in the workplace.

The report Race Equality Works for Northern Ireland highlighted employers’ key considerations when addressing racist exclusion, discrimination, and unconscious bias in the workplace, both for BME staff and for staff considered ‘migrant workers’.

A range of measures were taken to address the race-equality agenda, including making dedicated budgets available for training, interventions and positive reinforcement, and hiring staff experienced in dealing with equality duties.

Organisations that perceived equality efforts as a central part of the human resources function reported higher rates of confidence among staff to address new issues identified and to reflect on workforce planning.

A unique feature of this study was that participants were asked, in interviews, to identify ways in which their own organisation could improve on race-equality efforts, which encourages an incremental approach to moving forward on race equality, while considering time and resources.

Prompts included thinking about ways to draw on past achievements, leveraging strategic opportunities to highlight positive experiences of diversity, or adopting new equality measures.

Obstacles to new activities were time, resources, competing demands in the ‘equality agenda’, and a lack of interest from management.

Most of these activities directly linked to bullying and harassment prevention or resolution, but some also addressed recruitment and selection activities, and a few mentioned interest in addressing promotion or progression.

Just under half of employers suggested that they could monitor ethnic or national identities more widely; however, for organisations with small numbers of BME or foreign-born employees, they were unsure about how to make use of that monitoring data. Almost all employers looked to the Northern Ireland census to benchmark BME participation in their business.

Clear links between diversity and excellence will drive focus and will ensure that efforts to address equality in the workplace are effective and efficient. Strategies should be longer term and should aim to raise awareness, so that you consult staff on their ongoing impact and can evaluate the impact of any strategies implemented. Short-term, strategies can be useful in making a start on race-equality work (particularly if other equality groups are significantly more embedded in the organisation), but they should be a prelude to an established and sufficiently resourced equality strategy.

Business in the Community NI’s Denise Cranston commented: “Progressive employers have, for some time, been integrating equality and diversity initiatives into core business functions, such as organisational strategy and talent-management programmes. But this research shows that they need to do more to achieve greater race and ethnic diversity. Business in the Community fully supports the recommendations in the report and calls upon all employers to commit to taking action in order to take full advantage of the opportunity that migrant and ethnic workers present.”

The results have been used to develop a new toolkit for local employers, sharing steps they can take to improve race equality in the workplace; these include the following:

  • Clearly communicating the value of diversity in an organisation
  • Committing to raising awareness of racial bias
  • Being aware of the wider context of high levels of racism in Northern Ireland, and that it is not the preserve of any particular group
  • Making sense of local demographics and the wider picture of race equality in Northern Ireland
  • Using open and transparent communication, with consultation and feedback being key to understanding how well established the message about diversity is
  • Being confident, knowledgeable and comfortable when talking about racial bias
  • Showcasing success by creating visibility for diverse role models
  • Keeping equality on the table and considering how the value of diversity is reflected in business activities

Download the Report

Listen back

Is racial discrimination a problem in our third level institutions? RTE Morning Ireland

Language barriers creating difficulties for Syrians resettling in Ireland – on RTE Morning Ireland, Razan Ibraheem, Irish-Syrian journalist, discusses our report on the integration of Syrian refugees in Ireland.

Falling down the Covid conspiracy rabbit hole. Lucy talks to TippFM interview on disinformation, the far-right, Covid conspiracies, and the right to protest.

How do you deradicalise your close relative who has gone down the conspiracy theory rabbit hole? Newstalk interview with Henry McKean following anti-lockdown protest in Dublin

On the Policed podcast, Nana Nubi and Lucy Michael speak to Dr Vicky Conway about questions and concerns emerging from the killing of George Nkencho by the Armed Response Unit, including the right to life, policing and racism, policing mental health, and accountability

On Reboot Republic podcast, Rory Hearne and Lucy talk about racism, Direct Provision, deportations, and the resistance to the far-right in Ireland.

In the last of The Black & Irish podcast series, Amanda speaks with Lucy about her work with INAR, how allyship needs to be developed, and understanding the importance of unconscious bias.

On the Policed podcast, Majo Rivas, Fiona Finn and Lucy Michael discuss migrant experiences with An Garda Siochana

Balbriggan Youth Forum visit Howth RNLI

Balbriggan Youth Forum provides opportunities for young people in Balbriggan to speak about key social issues, connect with organisations to learn about those issues and how they affect young people, and learn new skills to share with others. BYF was established in 2021 by Balbriggan Integration Forum in acknowledgement that young people needed a platform for their own voices, to share the views of young people in the town and raise issues of concern to them. 

BYF’s next trip will be to the Dáil in September to visit TDs and Ministers, to learn about how local and national politics connect, and explore how young people’s voices can be heard.

A group of youth representatives from Balbriggan Youth Forum made an informative visit to Howth RNLI Lifeboats recently. Forum members came to learn about beach safety, safety on the water, the work of the RNLI crews, and how this important rescue operation is supported by volunteers. The members were keen to find out how to keep young people and their communities safe on and near the water, and learn about frontline rescues.

They were given a tour of the station, equipment and lifeboat pier to see the facilities supporting rescues across Fingal and Dublin. Jenny Harris, a volunteer member of the RNLI crew, shared her stories of rescues and being an essential part of a team under pressure. Forum members were particularly keen to find out how to share safety information with their community, and how to support the lifeboat’s work.

The group visited Baily Bites at Kish Fish on the West Pier to try out new seafood, the Martello Tower with it’s fantastic Hurdy Gurdy Radio museum and Balscadden Beach, while learning about the history of the town, its people and its connections with other parts of Fingal.

Ethnic Diversity, Inclusion and Racial Justice in the Church of Ireland: results of a survey

Archbishop of Armagh (head of the COI) addresses the General Synod.

We recently conducted a survey on behalf of the Archbishop of Armagh amongst members of the Church of Ireland, seeking views and examples of good practice on Ethnic Diversity, Inclusion and Racial Justice matters.

The survey results have been shared with the Archbishop and working group, and recommendations are now being developed for the Church to consider.

At the recent General Synod (the annual all-island decision-making meeting of the Church), the Archbishop shared some of his thoughts on the survey results, where he addressed issues of welcome, inclusion and historical acknowledgement.

The Archbishop’s speech (section on survey only – full speech at

“You may remember that last year I mentioned a piece of research into ethnic diversity, inclusion and racial justice in the Church of Ireland that I had commissioned. The research project was designed by Dr Lucy Michael (a member of this Synod for the Diocese of Dublin) and in collaboration with a small group of clergy and readers from a range of ethnic backgrounds. The results of the research survey have been written up over the past week or so and will, I hope, form the basis of some practical work closer to the ground which will be planned and rolled out in the coming year. As I have said repeatedly in General Synod and elsewhere, any family (and the Church of Ireland is a family) derives its vigour and interest, not from the family resemblances of its member’s, but from the differences that exist between them, including differences of ethnicity and colour. The results of the survey show that we are indeed a welcoming Church, but also that we are hesitant about what to do after we’ve said “hello”.

To generalise from what I have been able to take in from the hard data of the survey, it seems we are more likely to go on to say “I hope you are able to enjoy the riches we have on offer”, rather than “tell us about your experience of God and your thoughts about his Church and his World”, much less “how can you help us deepen our experience of these things?”. I think the results of the survey show that we recognise the benefits of inclusion, but are uncertain about how to turn that recognition into meaningful participation. We need to do some work on that.

Although perhaps not the finding of the survey with the most far-reaching implications, the one which stands out most prominently is around an insufficient acknowledgment by the Church of our entanglement in the past with slavery. As far as I can tell it’s not a statue-destroying militancy, but a heartfelt desire for an understanding based on accurate facts and an appreciation of the legacy that the gruesome reality of slavery has left. Nor is it about the “enormous condescension of posterity” (there is also an appreciation of the part the Church played in the abolition of the slave trade) but an appeal for clear-eyed appreciation of our actions and inactions in the past, and a willingness to address them.

Up until now this project has been something of a personal initiative of my own but the aim is to embed it much more widely throughout the Church of Ireland. This work is important for a number of reasons, not least perhaps in helping us explain to ourselves why, in a world of migration, the numbers of people of different race and colour, are very low in the Church of Ireland. It is true that many may not be Anglicans when they come to Ireland. But it is known that migrants are much more likely to “shop around” for a spiritual home when they arrive in their adoptive country. It might be useful to know why people have popped their heads around our shop door and decided “it’s not for us”.

But it’s important for a much more fundamental reason, which is that, regardless of numbers, Christian pastoral ministry is about the spiritual well being of every individual. And to do that we need to make the effort to see what other people see and hear what other people hear. It is not only the Anglican Communion that is held together by bonds of affection, but each parish and faith community. And in this instance, as I’ve said repeatedly, it means that we can credibly consider ourselves as fully part of the Catholic Church. As disciples of Jesus Christ we are not free to satisfy all of our appetites but we have a vocation to satisfy the desire for knowledge and understanding which the survey reveals. I look forward to the work which we can do in the year ahead to make this more of a reality.

Arts Council Ireland evaluation of the Equality, Human Rights and Diversity strategy 2019-2022

We are currently carrying out an evaluation, with Navigo Consulting , of the Arts Council of Ireland’s recent Equality, Human Rights and Diversity Strategy.

As part of the evaluation, we are looking to speak with artists and civil society organisations about access to and participation in the arts.

If you’d like to share your feedback with our evaluation team, please get in touch at

Artists are invited to join one of our focus groups between 17 and 24 May. You can indicate your availability at

Attitudes to immigrants – what value for survey research?

Recently, we commented on the latest IPSOS Global Trends 2021 study, in which researchers posed the folowing statement to members of the Irish public “There are too many immigrants in my country”. Such statements in research surveys are a common way of establishing attitudes amongst the wider public towards migrants. There are, however, some implications of these questions which have to be considered in their interpretation.

Firstly, it is helpful to point out that the statements themselves can be reproduced quite problematically in the media on the publication of such survey results. I found Sorcha Pollak’s approach very welcome in her discussion of these results and I’m grateful for her efforts to interrogate them.

Who is ‘an immigrant’? As Dr Amanullah DeSondy points out to Sorcha Pollak in this Irish Times article, participants often jump straight to thinking about “a black or brown person” when they think of migrants. So is it problematic that the survey does not ask a person to think of ‘all’ migrants? Given that we commonly have an idea of who is being talked about as ‘immigrants’ in political discourse, or in the chat in the parents group on WhatsApp or down the local pub, it is sensible that the survey seeks to capture exactly that sentiment in the research itself. The presentation of the results, however, leaves something to be desired if it does not address that point. Immigrants from the USA, UK, Australia or New Zealand are rarely complained about in the way that migrants from other countries are.

Far-right political groups (and often some mainstream groups using racism to get elected) point to the supposed drain on public services such as education, health or housing that immigrants produce. The framing of this is key – immigrants ‘drain’, while citizens ‘use’. Public services which are under pressure for other reasons (e.g. a housing crisis) are often the targets of anti-immigrant sentiment. That was evident in emergence of housing protests in Mulhuddart recently, despite County Council assurances that there was no ‘queue-jumping’ by migrants on the housing list. ‘Houses for the Irish’ has been an increasingly heard sentiment here during the housing crisis, as ‘Jobs for the Irish’ was popular during the recession post-2009. The framing of these issues in anti-immigrant sentiment is not only by far-right groups. The motivation for the Citizenship referendum of 2004 came directly from Government, not from the public. During the recession, Government made calls on immigrants to ‘go home’, ignoring that many had made Ireland their home in previous decades with all the intimate connections and long-term investments that this entails.

Attempts in anti-racism campaigns (particularly ‘myth-busting’) to point to the contributions made by migrants to a society have mixed efficacy, since myths about immigration are often adopted as beliefs along with emotional resonance with the issue.

Extreme views on immigration have tended to be relatively consistently captured in public attitude surveys. It is rare in the last decade to see extreme views at more than 10% of any survey on immigration (usually tipping about 6-7% in Europe). These appear to be relatively unaffected by fluctuations in the middle ground.

But there are key moments when public sentiment changes significantly in the middle ground, and surveys can capture that. We noted for example that in the Northern Ireland Life and Times Survey results after the 2016 Brexit vote, sentiment towards migrants was much more positive, even in the context of public services under pressure. This followed widespread discussion of the need for migrants in the workforce in media across the range of political viewpoints. Sentiments can also be changed by conditions outside a country’s own policies – in Ireland, for example, half of tabloids sold daily are UK-owned and contain high levels of anti-immigrant sentiment. American-influenced anti-immigrant sentiment is increasingly evident in Irish online forums since 2016, when Trump was elected in the USA.

Another statement put to participants in the IPSOS Global Trends survey which is useful is “people from different backgrounds and ethnic minorities in my country are treated fairly”. This statement, in its broad assertion, captures a range of experiences, which might include hate speech or racist incidents, but also state racisms, which are rarely captured elsewhere. Just 46 per cent of Irish people agreed with the statement this year.

Frequently, the public is ahead of Government on positive sentiment towards immigrants. We have seen that repeatedly in Ireland in recent years, as public campaigns for increased refugee reception and improved conditions for asylum seekers and undocumented migrants have proved popular and effective. The 81 per cent of Irish people who agreed that “my local area is a place where people from different backgrounds get on well together” (compared with just 65 per cent in Germany) reflects other research we have conducted recently that shows white Irish and ethnic minorities mix well in local communities, despite a historically laissez-faire approach by Government to integration.

Crude as they may be, Government look to surveys like the IPSOS Global Trends survey for consistent feedback on their position regarding immigration. Interrogating the utility of the questions posed, and how the results can be interpreted, is a crucial part of informing Goverment or civil society action that might follow.

2021 in review

HUGE THANKS to everyone who worked with us in 2021.

It’s been an incredibly busy year for us, and a very satisfying one! We added two full-time staff this year, and have employed a further 9 project staff. And we hope to continue to further our work on equity, inclusion and justice in 2022 with an expanded team!

Our clients this year in Ireland, the UK and Europe included:

  • International Organisation for Migration
  • Higher Education Authority
  • Department of Education
  • Maynooth University
  • Trinity College Dublin
  • NUI Galway
  • Irish Network Against Racism
  • Coalition of Disabled People’s Organisations
  • Irish Deaf Society
  • Irish Council of Civil Liberties and Irish Refugee Council
  • European Network Against Racism
  • EU Fundamental Rights Agency
  • Church of Ireland
  • New Communities Partnership
  • Belfast City Council
  • Fingal County Council
  • Irish Wheelchair Association